|Type of paper:||Term paper|
|Categories:||William Wordsworth William Blake|
Late 18th century, British literary artists began a movement (which was later labeled romanticism) that sought to challenge the reign of aristocracy in England. Proponents of romanticism were inspired by the French Revolution which was characterized by a violent clamor for liberty and amelioration of the conditions of the poor (Su 1-2). However, unlike the French Revolution, the British intellectuals used art to question aristocratic authority and lack of liberty in the wake of industrialization. William Blake, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were the first generation leaders of romanticism. Through their various forms of artistic expressions, Wordsworth, Blake, and Coleridge gave a voice to the oppressed and marginalized: children, rural poor, discharged soldiers, and women (Forward; Su 1).
Art relates to nature. As such, works of art are a reflection of what happens in the real world (Feder 251-52). During the period of romanticism, artists used poetry and paintings to highlight social and political issues that were affecting their fellow English citizens. At the heart of their works was an emphasis on a strong relationship with nature. The movement rejected rationalism and materialism that followed Enlightenment and espoused a humanist philosophy that stressed the importance of expressing personal feelings in the context of nature (Forward).Wordsworth and Coleridge held the view that poetic language needed to be as simple as possible and understandable to the ordinary people since such language comes out of people naturally and is also full of imagination compared to the complex texts of Intellectuals of the Enlightenment (Feder 248; Su 2). Throughout their works, they portray nature as a place of refuge and restoration from the vagaries of the world of materialism.
William Wordsworth has been regarded as the most influential poets of the romantic period .Wordsworth's poems were closely connected to nature, more so to the Lake District area where he spent most of his life (Forward). In one of his earliest poems, Lines Written in Early Spring, Wordsworth demonstrates from the onset his strong association of a good life with nature. The narrator in the poem says, "To her fair works did Nature link"(Line 5). The narrator goes on to describe how the birds are enjoying in the vegetation provided by nature. Although the narrator cannot conclusively say that the birds are enjoying the abundance of nature, he expresses faith that the interpretation is correct. According to Rumens, this acknowledgement by the narrator that it is not possible to conclude with certainty as to whether the birds are having pleasure in the vegetation reveals an important trait about Wordsworth-he is a flexible person. This is seen at the peak of his career when he changed from being a radical (which characterized him as a young poet) to conservative (theguardian.com).
The belief that pleasure lies in nature is also expressed in the thoughts of the narrator in connection with the surrounding vegetation. The leaves and flowers are perfect symbols of pleasure in nature. The narrator observes, "And 'tis my faith that every flower / Enjoys the air it breathes"(11-12).Here, Wordsworth reveals the kind of 'energy' that nature injects into life and the pleasure derived from circumstances that are created by nature. This way, Wordsworth depicts nature as a place of refuge that heals and rejuvenates life.
Wordsworth's concern about nature is achieved in the poem through repetition. The narrator is dismayed that the benefits (such as tranquility which offers a sense of healing and discovery) that nature offers are under threat. The narrator says, "And much it grieved my heart to think /What man has made of man"(Lines 7-8). The latter phrase is also repeated in the last stanza and has been considered the key phrase in the poem. The narrator further repeats the use of the word nature. These repetitions reveal the effect of industrialization on the environment. As Rumens puts it, the phrase represents the mines and mills and factories that have discharged effluent and smoke onto the English vegetation and polluted nature which was once a source of fresh air and pleasure (the guardian.com).
Another Wordsworth's work that lays a lot of emphasis on nature is London, 1802.This poem captures Wordsworth's disaffection with industrialization in the city of London. Wordsworth dedicated the poem to John Milton, an earlier British poet. It seeks to posthumously urge Milton to aid in restoring England's 'lost glory.' Wordsworth regrets that England has decayed and, therefore, something extraordinary needs to be done to rescue the country from possible ruin. The narrator says, "England hath need of thee: she is a fen/Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen"(Lines 2-3).Such description was a reflection of how decadent England had become. The stagnant water, altar, sword, and pen represent pollution of the physical environment, the decline the church, wars and writing respectively. The pollution of the physical environment has made nature impure, and the church was no longer a source of morals. England as a country has got involved in wars and intellectuals are no longer reliable in promoting English values. These metaphors highlight the level of transformation that had taken place in the English society.
Although Wordsworth knows that Milton would not resurrect to rescue England from its ruinous path, the decision to urge the dead to come back to life is an important metaphor considering England's current situation. During the time, industrialization was at the heart of the English economy. Wordsworth had noticed how the English had embraced the value of manufacturing and the extent to which it had changed the English society. This level of awareness again reveals the flexible nature of Wordsworth. That is to say, he knew England had lost its traditions and values, but restoring its former moral position was likely to be as difficult as raising the dead (Owen 112-13). This position appears to suggest that Wordsworth is resigned to the possibility that industrialization and materialism will be part and parcel of the English society in many years.
Industrialization and its harmful effects on nature appear to be a troubling concern for Wordsworth. In one of his famous works, The World is too much with us, Wordsworth roundly criticizes the advent of the age of industrial revolution. The title of the poem suggests that, although England had undergone several changes in traditions and values, whatever that has been witnessed during the industrial revolution had never happened before. Put crudely, the industrial revolution has brought too much for the English people to handle. Wordsworth highlights his concerns about the demise of the cottage industry and abandonment of rural life as a result of industrialization. He avers that industrialization has affected both the mind and the physical world. According to him, this did not augur well for the future values of the English society.
The factory economy, in particular, had had a significant effect on the morals of individuals. Wordsworth commiserates with the workers in the factors who work for long hours with little pay. Put in another version, Wordsworth decries the exploitation of industrial workers by the factory owners. He says, "Getting and spending"......He adds, "Little we see in Nature that is ours/We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!"(1-4). These expressions show how Wordsworth is disappointed at the change of the human mind, especially in the way people treated each other. The English had become greedy, and all they cared about is money. As a result, they had lost their hold on nature. The departure from nature in this context is depicted as the tendency of glorifying materialism as a source of satisfaction and peace of mind. He is skeptical that making more money from the factory system would guarantee one a peace of mind as was the case for rural farming where people produced to meet their consumption.
Apart from erosion of English morals, Wordsworth decries the destruction of the physical environment to pave the way for the establishment of industries. He is upset that the development of the factory system has made modern man neglectful of Nature-the physical environment (Ramazani and Bazregarzadeh 4). He warns that "For this, for everything, we are out of tune (line 8).This is a clear expression of the need to conserve the physical environment. Here, he highlights the fact that man depends on nature (natural resources) for survival and, therefore, any disregard of this resource could spell doom for humanity. However, Ramazani and Bazregarzadeh argue that Wordsworth does not necessarily mean that humanity would extinct as a result of the destruction of the natural sources of livelihoods; instead, he seeks to increases the consciousness of human beings by emphasizing their reliance on Nature for daily survival(4-5).
William Blake was a staunch Christian. His religious background had a profound influence on his literary works (Su 2; Zhan 1610). His religiosity is captured in his poems as evidenced in London (Su 2).The poem has several similarities (in terms the subject matter) with Wordsworth's London, 1802.Blake reveals how nature is divine in his expressions of disgust at the effect industrial revolution has had on his hometown. Like Wordsworth, he uses plain language to convey his message to his audience. In London, Blake paints a bleak picture of a town he once admired and cherished. London has significantly changed as a result of industrialization. When he walks on every street, he sees evidence erosion of the city's past glory. He says, "And mark in every face I meet/Marks of weakness, marks of woe"(Lines 3-4).To prove his case, he describes the miserable of conditions of his fellow countrymen and women: the chimney-sweepers, soldiers, and harlots. These groups of people were pushed to the bottom of the human pile by industrialization (Zhan 1610-12).
Blake sees London's state as a loss of divine presence because of the development of the factory system. For one, the city residents have lost their attachment to God and pinned all their hopes on materialism. He wonders, "Every blackning Church appalls"(Line 10). This description highlights society's abandonment of the church for material things which have been created through destruction of nature. He condemns the church, military, royalty, and the new economic model for their contribution in making ordinary citizens suffer (Zhan 1612).
Blake is also disturbed that the institution of marriage is being destroyed. In his view, being in marriage was dangerous because extra-marital affairs and prostitution were a common sight in the streets of London. Sexually transmitted diseases were being spread as a result of prostitution. The church had failed to come out and condemn the vagaries of the factory economic system. That the church is silent (perhaps because senior members are cohorts in the factory system) is what Blake describes as "blackning of the church"(Zhan 1613). Simply put, the church has shirked its responsibility in extolling morals in society.
Blake's effort to give a voice to the oppressed and marginalized does not end with London. In "The Song of Experiences" and "The little black boy," Blake captures the innocence of young people and urges that adults should emulate their behavior to promote principles and values of an egalitarian society. In "The Song of Experiences," the poet uses simple language to reveal his deep understanding of reality. The poem envisions the ideal lifestyle as living as children because they have no idea about money and other forms of materialism that have proved ruinous to society. This way, he represents the children as pure individuals as nature. He portray...
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